Announcements from the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

August 3, 2017

What’s New

Report to President on Opioid Crisis.  On Monday, the Office of National Drug Control Policy convened a public meeting to review a draft report on the opioid epidemic.  The report summarizes initial findings of an investigation by the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and makes recommendations for executive-level action steps in policy and funding to increase treatment capacity, expand medication-assisted treatment options and enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.  Recently, the Association of American Medical Colleges acknowledged the rural upsurge of opioid use disorder and made recommendations for outreach and training for physicians on the front line.

American Indian/Alaska Native Health Study.   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) joins the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH) to ask for participation in a survey of health-related behaviors in American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities.  Using the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the effort aims to learn more about behaviors that impact health outcomes such as eating habits, tobacco use and physical activity.  The project is an opportunity to better understand health needs of AI/AN communities, identify health disparities, and find culturally-appropriate ways to address them.   Visit the Rural Health Information Hub for background on the importance of research and needs assessments in rural areas, particularly community-based participatory research in tribal communities.

Funding Opportunities

Rural Promise Neighborhoods – September 5. The Department of Education (ED) funds Promise Neighborhoods to improve the educational and developmental outcomes of youth in distressed communities by strengthening schools and systems of family and community support. Applicants must apply under one of three priority areas, including proposals to serve rural communities or American Indian tribes. Research has documented a strong link between poorer educational achievement and worse health outcomes. This is important for rural areas where students in fourth grade perform well compared to their urban counterparts but continue to lag behind in behavioral health outcomes and longer-term educational attainment. Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher education partnering with local schools districts and elementary or secondary schools. The ED strongly encourages interested applicants to submit a notice of intent by August 21.

Housing Farm Laborers – September 11. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) seeks pre-applications for direct loans and grants to build rental housing and related facilities for domestic farm laborers on terms that allow for rents affordable to lower-income tenants. Farmers, farmworker associations, state and local governments, and federally-recognized tribes are eligible to apply for up to $3 million per application. Concentrated in rural communities, farm work remains one of the most hazardous occupations in the country. Migratory and seasonal farmworkers also face other challenging conditions that contribute to poor health, including inadequate housing. USDA will assign additional points to project pre-applications based in census tracts with poverty rates of at least 20% over the last 30 years. More than 80% of such persistently poor counties are rural.

USDA Loans for Rural Broadband – September 30. The Rural Utilities Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has available at least $60 million to fund the second round of applications for the Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, which provides funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas. Eligible applicants include nonprofit or for-profit corporations or cooperative organizations as well as state or local governments and American Indiana tribal agencies. Rural health care providers with improved access to broadband internet may be able to provide telehealth services connecting residents to distant specialty or emergency services.

Research to Reduce Tobacco Use – October 11.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will support local and state governments, nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and Native American tribal entities among other eligible applicants to “stimulate scientific inquiry focused on innovative tobacco control policies.”  NIH has a long-term goal of reducing health disparities in vulnerable populations using tobacco prevention and control strategies that have proven effective.  As of 2015, tobacco use has cost the nation approximately $289 billion in medical costs and productivity loss, with higher rates of smoking and smokeless tobacco use in rural areas.  The first cycle of applications will be accepted from September 11 – October 11, 2017.  There will be two application cycles in June and October of each year, with the last cycle ending in June 2020.

Resources, Learning Events and Technical Assistance

Applying for Substance Abuse Telehealth Funding – Tuesday, August 8 at 2:00 pm ET.  FORHP will provide technical assistance in a one-hour webinar for applicants to the Substance Abuse Treatment Telehealth Network Grant Program.  Successful applicants will join a three-year program to improve access to health care services, particularly for substance abuse in rural, frontier and underserved communities.  Existing telehealth networks in counties with high rates of poverty and unemployment are encouraged to apply to expand and improve training of health care providers and quality of services.  For more information, contact Carlos Mena in the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy.

AgriSafe: Protecting Young Adults in Agriculture – Wednesday, August 9 at 1:00 pm ET.  The AgriSafeNetwork will host this one-hour webinar on occupational safety considerations for young adult workers between the ages of 16 – 24.  Participants will learn to define agricultural hazards that increase risk of injury and illness, describe regulatory standards that promote a safe work environment and create action steps that can reduce agricultural injury.

CMS All Tribes Call – Wednesday, August 9 from 2:30 – 4:00 pm ET. The Division of Tribal Affairs at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) holds All Tribes Calls and Webinars to get input from Indian Health Services (IHS) programs on how CMS regulation impacts the Indian health delivery system.  Wednesday’s call will provide guidance on the process to become a Medicaid Federally Qualified Health Center.

CMS Safety Net-Providers Open Door Forum – Thursday, August 10 at 2:00 pm ET.  Policy experts from HRSA will join CMS to discuss chronic care management services for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs).  Other topics for this one-hour call include Physician Fee Schedule updates, Quality Payment Program updates and changes in beneficiary assignment to Accountable Care Organizations for FQHCs and RHCs.  The Forum provides an opportunity for a dialogue between CMS and safety net providers such as health centers, rural health clinics, critical access hospitals, and 340B safety net providers.

Input Needed: CMS Behavioral Health Payment Model – September 8, from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.  The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within CMS will hold a public meeting to discuss ideas for a behavioral health payment model to improve care and access to health services for beneficiaries.  Ideas shared will assist CMS consideration of a model to address behavioral health payment care and delivery.  There is a significant need for mental and behavioral health services in rural areas, including among rural children who are more likely to experience mental, behavioral, and developmental challenges than kids in urban and suburban areas, as reported by the CDC. Comments and ideas may also be submitted by mail or email. These comments and registration to attend in person must be submitted no later than August 25th.

Save the Date and Register for 3RNet’s Annual Conference – September 12-14.  The National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network (3RNet) will hold its annual conference in Scottsdale, AZ. 3RNet members represent over 5,000 communities across the U.S. that actively recruit physicians and other health care providers to work in rural areas.  Attendees will benefit from workshops and a speaker line up sharing insight on rural recruitment challenges, resources and tools.

Training Series for Health Care Providers on Prescribing Opioids – Ongoing. The CDC has an eight-part online training series to help health care providers apply CDC’s prescribing recommendations in their clinical settings through interactive patient scenarios, videos, knowledge checks, tips, and resources. Rural practitioners report their concern about the potential for opioid abuse, but at the same time report insufficient training in prescribing opioids. For this reason, the CDC created the 2016  Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain and associated training. Topics in the series include communicating with patients, treating chronic pain without opioids, and prescribing decision making.

Resource of the Week

Public-Private Partnerships for Rural Health.  This new video from the Rural Health Information Hub features two grantees that received funding from both the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy and private philanthropic donors to use the care coordination model – that is, sharing information and resources across different health care settings – in rural communities.  The grant program is a product of the Rural Health Philanthropy Partnership, which brings federal programs together with private foundations to address health care needs in rural areas.

Approaching Deadlines

Improved Nutrition Services for Elders – August 7
Support for Veteran and Minority Farmers and Ranchers – August 7
Public Health in Tribal Communities – August 7
Funding for Children Affected by Substance Abuse – August 9
Developing Future Victim Specialists for Indian Country – August 9
Comments Requested: Researching Pregnancy Screening for Hepatitis B  – August 9
Survey on Aging and Disability – August 9
Telehealth Center of Excellence – August 21
Comments Requested: Payment Changes for Medicare Clinicians – August 21
Telehealth Network Grant for Substance Abuse – August 23
Funding for Buses and Transit Infrastructure – August 25
AHRQ Seeks Rural Experts – August 26
Comments Requested: Updates to Policy for End-Stage Renal Disease – August 28
State Systems Development for Maternal and Child Health – September 5
Rural Promise Neighborhoods – September 5
Housing farm laborers – September 11
Comments Requested: Policy for Hospital Outpatient Services – September 11
Comments Requested: Physician Fee Schedule/Diabetes Prevention – September 11
HIT Strategies for Patient-Reported Outcome Measures – Ongoing
HIT to Improve Health Care Quality and Outcomes – Ongoing
Community Facilities Program –  Ongoing
Summer Food Service Program – Ongoing